T-minus three days and counting. Russians will go to the polls on Sunday to cast their votes for a new President. But one shouldn’t get to carried away with the casting votes part. Yes, Russians will vote, but no one has any doubt who the victor will be. Dmitri Medvedev will be the third President of the Russian Federation.
And it seems that Russians have been getting ready since Putin anointed him successor in December. According to the Moscow Times, bureaucrats and businessmen have been furiously snatching up portraits of Medvedev. Photo shop owner Vladimir Tyshko is cashing in on the pre-election rush. As the MT says,
“Since it was announced that Medvedev was the official successor, we immediately started getting inquiries about him, and now Medvedev has really overtaken Putin in sales,” said Vladimir Tyshko, who sells photographic portraits of politicians.
“With the elections approaching, Medvedev is selling very well: About 70 percent of people want portraits of Medvedev, and 30 percent want Putin now. Before Putin was of course the absolute leader by sales; now it is Medvedev,” Tyshko said.
Tyshko’s Internet shop, www.vRamke.ru, sells a giant 1.2 meter-high Medvedev portrait for 20,000 rubles ($800). Smaller portraits, showing a benevolent-looking Medvedev, go for 2,000 rubles.
Kinda reminds me of the Staples Center jersey shop right after the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol. I’m sure Gasol has been out selling Kobe since.
Poor Putin. He’s yesterday’s news. Last year’s champion. A washed up Personality Cult. And shops just can’t move them As one clerk in a Moscow bookshop told the Moscow Times, “The Medvedev ones have sold out. Buy the Putin one — he is still the boss.”
Putin!? Why settle for less when there’s a new kid in town.
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By Sean — 10 years ago
Western leaders have been hoping and praying that Dmitri Medvedev will be more “liberal” in foreign and domestic policy. According to a LexisNexis search the new President elect’s name is often followed with words like “liberal,” “liberal instincts,” “liberal inclinations,” and the like. It’s not that Medvedev hasn’t given Westerners any reason to hope. Take this exchange from Medvedev’s 18 February interview with Itogi for example:
But now we will soon have a new holiday, the Day of the Lawyer. If only it could help create the rule of law.
I agree. To overcome the legal nihilism preventing the country from developing harmoniously is a long and difficult job. As it turned out, to establish a workable model of a market economy is much easier than laying the foundations of a state in which people respect the letter of the law. This is another demonstration of the thesis that democracy cannot occur in any given place after two or three years. It requires painstaking, persistent work to improve the legal and political system. Of course, one can not forget the distinctive characteristics of the Russian situation. You know, justice has always relied on a mechanism for enforcing its implementation, some kind of public stick. But if it is not based on a set of moral imperatives, on internal convictions and moral principles, if it simply aspires to the crude power of a punitive machine, then the structure it creates will be flawed and ineffective. In the nineteenth century, the Russian government was far from perfect but it was a developed system based on a set of moral and religious values. In the twentieth century, the second part of this disappeared: people were deprived of their faith in God and the state came to demonstrate either naked coercion, which at times was extremely cruel indeed, or weakness and complete failure. These are both equally bad. We all remember what the well known doctrines of the thirties and forties led to, when the talk was of class dictatorship and the presumption of guilt in criminal trials. This helped resolve some tactical problems, but in the long-term planted a time-bomb that ended the very existence of the Soviet state. You have to feel what justice is, accept it voluntarily, not obey it in some insanely prostrate way. The explosion was inevitable, it would have happened sooner or later. People rushed to the other extreme and took to systematically breaking laws. This is what happened in the nineties.
Do you think that the current system of justice is better?
Though based on quite good, solid regulatory framework, our judicial system continues to function, getting its bearings from old traditions. Disregard for the law in various sectors of society remains widespread. Until we change people’s attitudes, until we convince them there is only one law and no one is above it, there will be no change for the better. The strength of the rule of law consists in the fact that no one can influence it. Neither pressure from various authorities, including the most powerful, nor pressure from business nor social forces. Justice should be in harmony with all the participants in this process, and refuse to cave in to anyone.
These are fine words, Dmitry Anatolyevich, but how can they be put into practice?
You can start small. For example, recommend that judges at all levels keep to a minimum all contact with businessmen and even representatives of public services. To retain maximum independence and objectivity.
You can’t put people in a cage.
You don’t have to. It’s enough if you can completely eliminate the personal factor. The more faceless the legal machinery becomes, the stronger it is. I am absolutely convinced of this.
I guess we will have to see which Medvedev Russia and the world will get. Instead of getting to carried away with liberal fantasies, perhaps we should take heed of what Putin told reporters in regard to how his protege might approach foreign policy:
“I have the feeling that some of our partners cannot wait for me to stop exercising my powers so that they can deal with another person. I am long accustomed to the label by which it is difficult to work with a former KGB agent. Dmitry Medvedev will be free from having to prove his liberal views. But he is no less of a Russian nationalist than me, in the good sense of the word, and I do not think our partners will have it easier with him.”
Oh yeah that. Nationalism. No matter how liberal Medvedev may seem, if anyone thinks he’s going to go against Russia’s short and long term national interests, or more importantly, against the interests of Russia’s elite class, then keep dreaming.
Plus Medvedev has more pressing issues at hand. First and foremost is to establish his own power base in the Kremlin and in Russia’s regions. That process is already starting. Medvedev doesn’t official become president until early May, yet yesterday Putin ordered that the presidential administration to begin working for Medvedev, along with giving him a presidential level security detail. The Moscow Times is speculating that one of Medvedev’s first moves will be to fire the current cabinet and put his own guys in power. Potential members of Medvedev’s “clan” are his former law school chums from Leningrad State University. They include Anton Ivanov, chairman of the Supreme Arbitration Court; Ilya Yeliseyev, deputy chairman of Gazprombank; Konstantin Chuichenko, head of Gazprom’s legal department; and Nikolai Vinnichenko, head of the Court Marshals Service. This group is already being dubbed as the “civiliki.” All of these guys have come up on Medvedev’s tail. For example, between March 2001and March 2005, Chuichenko went from heading Gazprom’s legal department to being elected to the supervisory board of Sibneft. The others on this list shot up to important positions in media, energy, and the legal system. And the ride on Medvedev’s tail brought others riding on the civiliki tails. Such is the nature of Russian “networkism,” as Alena Ledeneva told Graham Stack in December. The question now becomes whether there will be a clash between Medvedev’s clan of civiliki and the siloviki.
If establishing a base in the Kremlin was difficult enough, it appears that he will have to do the same in Russia’s regions. Andrei Serenko’s recent article in Nezavisimaya gazeta, “Revenge from the Underground,” is a good example of what Medvedev might face. Serenko notes that the Presidential elections produced cleavages between provincial political elites. In Volgograd, for example, elites split into a “high turnout party” and a “low turn out party.” The former, mostly comprising of governors and mayors, saw the election as a test of their “professional aptitude and administrative effectiveness.” Translated, regional leaders saw high turnouts as a way to demonstrate their loyalty to the center, and specifically Putin’s choice, Medvedev. The latter are those elites’ local rivals. The “low turnout party” were those who recently lost power to the local political bosses and now seek to exact “administrative revenge.” The hope was that lower numbers for Medvedev would give the “low turnout party” a way to discredit their rivals in Moscow’s eyes.
As Dmitri Savelev, the director of the Institute for Effective Government, told Serenko, an “administrative partisan movement” has arisen in Russia’s Central and Souther provinces bent on returning ousted “old elites” to power. One way to do this was by messing with Medvedev’s local returns. The “Yarolsav opposition,” for example, tried to discredit their rivals by “intentionally discrediting the numbers of [Yaroslav] Governor Bakhukov and lowering the electoral returns for Dmitri Medvedev in the region to 30 percent, and at the same time increasing the returns for Liberal Democratic Party to 20 percent and more.” It doesn’t seem like the Yaroslav “low turn out party” was very successful. Returns show that Medvedev got 63 percent compared to Zhirinovsky’s 13 percent. In the Duma elections (also held on March 2), United Russia got 49 percent compared to LDPR’s 13 percent.
This doesn’t mean that Medvedev isn’t going to have to reestablish central control. As Serenko concludes, while regional leaders formed a united front for December’s Duma elections, the presidential election has “intensified competition among various groups of regional elites, thereby shaking the stability of the regional political system which was formed during the rule of Vladimir Putin. It’s obvious that the task of restoring this stability will be one of the priorities for Dmitri Medvedev’s administration.”
Taming the center and the periphery. Sounds like Dima already has a lot on his plate even before he actually gets to sit at the table. And people wonder why Putin is sticking around as Prime Minister.Post Views: 533
By Sean — 11 years ago
The Russian electoral season is already unfolding like a stage performance. Putin, who we might refer to as the Director, announced the date for his troupe’s first performance: the State Duma elections scheduled for December 1. Kommersant Vlast’ has a thorough breakdown of its prediction of how the 450 Duma seats will be divided. The first thing to notice is the expectation that the number of parties represented in the Duma will drop by 10 percent. This is no doubt a result of two factors. The first is the increase of the electoral threshold to 7 percent. This along is expected to cut out 10 or 11 parties alone. The other fact is multiple. Namely, that Russian politics are a complex business, and the revamp of the electoral threshold matters most for parties already waining in influence.
To explain this complexity, Kommersant’s Dmitiry Kamyshev provides eight factors (with the number of seats at stake for each) that will determine the Duma’s breakdown: Name recognition (140 seats), political influence (100 seats), war chest (70 seats), leadership (45 seats), flamboyancy (35 seats), airtime (25 seats), past victories (20 seats), and fulfillment of promises (15 seats). No party dominates in all eight. For example, you can’t think of the KPRF without Gennady Zyuganov’s bald dome or the LDPR without picturing Vladimir Zhirinovsky flaying his arms about. This alone will get each party 16 and 14 seats respectively. United Russia on the other hand has no face, except for maybe Putin’s, and he’s one foot out the door. That said besides leadership and flamboyancy, United Russia tops in all other categories giving them a predicted 245 seats. Just Russia comes in second with 85 and the KPRF and LDPR follow with 75 and 45 seats respectively.
But as everyone knows the State Duma elections are merely a dress rehearsal for the real performance. Russian Presidential elections are scheduled for March 9, 2008. The stars have all but been officially selected, with First Deputy Prime Ministers Dmitry Medvedev and Sergei Ivanov leading the cast. The question is which role each will get. Last year, Kommersant reports, there were rumors that Ivanov would become the head of Just Russia, while Medvedev would lead United Russia. That makes sense writes Kamyshev since “the liberal lawyer Medvedev heading the right-center United Russia and the pro-state, pro-police Ivanov heading the left-center Just Russia” seems to correspond with political ideology. But now that Ivanov is heading in the polls, Medvedev’s starring role appears in jeopardy. Now Ivanov looks slated to lead United Russia, a move that also makes sense since “if United Russia was going to associate itself with one of the possible successors, it could only be with the one who was going to win.” Given the choice between ideology and consistency in performance, the latter wins every time. Russia is moving toward a two party system for sure, but it will be a while before Just Russia is ready for the center stage.
The only question is whether all this over planning will scuttle the authenticity of the performance. After all, manufacturing an election is easy, but making it manufactured and reflect the will of the people is a skill that I think only Western democracies have mastered. Perhaps with Putin’s keen directorial eye, the right amount of stage management, and a stellar cast, this electoral season will be Russia’s democratic coming out party. I know I will have my ticket in hand. There is nothing I like more than a good political drama.Post Views: 326
By Sean — 10 years ago
Michael Idov’s ” The Hibertation” in the New Republic is a must read.
The New Republic
The Hibernation by Michael Idov
Meet Dmitri Medvedev, a docile president for a docile Russia.
Post Date Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Minutes after the polls closed on March 2 in the westernmost Russian city of Kaliningrad–certifying a blowout victory by presidential candidate Dmitri Anatolyevich Medvedev, handpicked heir to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin– the men of the hour made an appearance at a massive concert underway in Red Square. As broadcast by NTV, a television channel owned by Gazprom (where Medvedev chairs the board of directors), the scene looked like something out of Mission: Impossible. A low-placed camera tracked alongside Putin and Medvedev, dressed Kremlin Casual in a boxy leather jacket (Dima) and a parka (Volodya), as they strode, to a rock beat, across the convex cobblestone expanse of the square. The shot’s director, perhaps taking another cue from Tom Cruise movies, had removed background extras or anything else the eye could use to calibrate the heroes’ heights: Medvedev is 5’4″ to Putin’s 5’7″. The action duo climbed onto the stage, and Medvedev–a professed headbanger who had had a box reserved at the Led Zeppelin reunion show in London on the day Putin named him his successor–got to live out a rock ‘n’ roll moment. He grabbed the mic and yelled “Privet, Rossiya! Privet, Moskva!” (the Russian equivalent of “Hello, Cleveland”). The square went wild. His fervor subsiding, the president-elect segued into an anodyne victory speech about the need to “fortify stability” and “improve quality of life.” The crowd began chanting “Con-grats! Con-grats!”–an unusually impersonal choice of a mantra. Medvedev passed the microphone to his benefactor, and the chant immediately changed. “Pu-tin! Pu-tin! PU-TIN!!!” Medvedev politely smiled.
This episode is likely to repeat, in one form or another, throughout the first months and even years of Medvedev’s rule. If it seems as if Russia has elected a man nobody knows anything about, it’s because Russia, with a complacency easily mistakable for contentedness, didn’t really elect Dmitri Medvedev at all. It reelected Vladimir Putin, in the way Tibetan monks pick the same Dalai Lama each time, regardless of the human form he’s taken. The rubber- stamping of the Kremlin candidate illuminates a useful truth about Russian society: Putin’s stifling regime and the country’s oil-fueled prosperity are viewed not as unrelated phenomena but as cause and effect. Medvedev, even as he formally represents the end of that regime, is also its ultimate triumph.Post Views: 491